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MOSCOW, June 11. /ITAR-TASS/. Large-scale Russian armed forces training that started in Russia’s exclave Kaliningrad Region on June 10 and is proceeding simultaneously with NATO military exercises on the Baltic on June 9-21 indicates that Moscow is determined to adequately face threats and challenges of the time, say Russian military experts.
NATO's Saber Strike 2014 has gathered 4,700 men and about 800 pieces of military equipment. The exercise is being held in the Baltics for a fourth time, but the number of participating troops has more than doubled this year. Latvia’s Baltic military cooperation event, Baltic Host 2014, will take place at the same time. On June 6-21, the sea exercise Baltops 2014 will take place in the Baltic Sea.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the forces involved are comparable to manpower, weapons and military equipment involved in the NATO training. The General Staff formed the ground forces of the Pskov 76th Airborne Division, the marines, air defense formations, fighter-bombers Su-34, helicopters Mi-24 and long-range bombers Tu-22M3.
The defense ministers of the member-countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), often described in the Western media as the Russian response to NATO, met in Moscow on Tuesday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry considers NATO training in the Baltic “a demonstration of hostile intentions”. According to the First Deputy Foreign Minister, Vladimir Titov, Moscow cannot remain indifferent to the militarization of the surrounding countries, and it will have to take “any necessary political and military measures to ensure security”.
“Politically, Russia will have to hold firmer in estimating NATO actions and take a more principled stance in asserting its views,” Colonel General Valery Manilov, a former first deputy head of the Armed Forces' General Staff, told ITAR-TASS. “When we accept reasonable compromises in negotiations with Western partners, they interpret it as a weakness and demand more concessions.”
Amid the events in Ukraine’s south-east, where Kiev pursues scorched land tactics with US and NATO support, Russia will have to take a tougher line, Manilov believes.
“We have no reason to get entangled in a senseless and exhausting arms race like the one in the Soviet times,” he said. “Russia has a number of military advantages one cannot ignore.”
Russia had an edge in missile defense systems, Iskander missile complexes, aviation, radar systems, and had its own know-how, he added. This, he believes, allows Russia to face any security threats without boosting the volume of military means, just by improving their quality.
“Besides, Russia can strengthen troops on its western borders, redeploy units or even formations of rocket troops, air and missile defense groups, in particular using Iskander launchers in the Kaliningrad Region. The CSTO can strengthen the joint air defense system in Belarus and limit NATO's interests in safe movement about Central Asia,” said the military expert.
NATO prompts the CSTO states to create a common air defense system, believes a Deputy Director of the Institute for the USA and Canadian Studies, Major-General Pavel Zolotarev. “The Russia-NATO dialogue is stalled, so this creates new dividing lines in Europe,” he told ITAR-TASS.
“In the currently tense situation, a common air and missile defense system would not hurt the CSTO. No country can establish an effective system without cooperation with others,” said Zolotarev who specializes in missile equipment.
“NATO states are expanding the presence of their military aircraft near the Russian border, which means Russia will confront them with cutting-edge air defense complexes,” the expert said. The Russian armed forces’ training in Kaliningrad Region simultaneously with NATO exercise is a sign Russia is prepared to protect its sovereignty, he believes.
“When this sabre-rattling folly near the Russian border ends, Moscow and its Western partners will need to go back to the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security. We need to choose the right direction towards security in Europe and worldwide,” said the military expert.
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